Minister Kitt announces good news for Group Water Schemes


Mr. Michael Kitt TD, Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has announced major increases in the subsidies that group water schemes are paid towards their operational costs.

There are as many as 5,500 group schemes in Ireland, serving more than 500,000 people. These community-owned schemes - run by voluntary committees - supply drinking water to households, farms and small businesses in areas not served by local authority water mains.

"Group water schemes are a shining example of community enterprise" - said Minister Kitt. "I am delighted to be able to step-up the subsidies which will reassure the groups about their long-term financial viability. The very significant increases also demonstrate the government's recognition of the crucial role group schemes are continuing to play in improving quality of life and the rural economy generally."

Exchequer subsidies are paid to group water schemes to give their members a degree of parity with urban households, whose drinking water is supplied free of charge by local authorities. The subsidy covers the domestic share of the groups' operation and maintenance costs.

The improved subsidies follow an in-depth examination by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government - working closely with the National Federation of Group Water Schemes - of costs faced by voluntary group scheme committees in the new business and regulatory environment they are working in. Many groups now have sophisticated water treatment plants operated by professional contractors. They are also soon to be licensed under new quality control measures introduced under the Water Services Act 2007.

The Minister's announcement means that the lowest annual rate of subsidy - for group schemes using public water mains as a source - goes up from €50.79 to €70.00 per household. Schemes that rely on their own private source - such as a well or borehole - will see their annual subsidy increase from €101.58 to €140.00 per household. Where a group scheme has provided its own water treatment plant under a Design, Build, Operate (DBO) contract, a new subsidy will be paid to cover the full production cost of treated water for domestic use.

"The group scheme sector is going through a huge modernisation process to ensure that it can meet the high expectations of its membership and, equally importantly, the stringent legal obligations compelling all water suppliers to provide their customers with clean and wholesome drinking water" - Minister Kitt said.

He added that the government was investing substantial funding on improving the infrastructure for both local authority and group scheme supplies and acknowledged there were significant operational costs associated with achieving quality standards.

"Where group schemes are concerned, these new and improved subsidies give them the resources they need to meet the challenge of consistently supplying their members with top-quality drinking water that is always available on tap when required."